How to Prepare for UPSC Exam without Coaching: Tips to Become an IAS officer?

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : April 18th, 2022

How To Prepare for the UPSC Exam without Coaching? Is it even possible? These questions daunt the mind of the aspirants who want to sit for the coveted Civil Services Examinations. The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination every year, and it is considered one of the toughest exams in India. The UPSC Exam Preparation can be done without joining coaching giants, and burning a hole in your pocket. The right strategy, approach, and a disciplined timetable can help you achieve the goal with a year of your preparation.

The aim of this post is to help out those candidates who want to Crack UPSC Exam without Coaching. We have covered an effective preparation strategy to answer the most asked question, How To Crack UPSC in the First Attempt without Coaching. 

Table of Content

How to Start Preparation for IAS Without Coaching?

It is widely believed by many candidates that coaching is essential for them to crack the UPSC Exam and decode the UPSC exam strategy. However, in reality, hardwood and dedication combined with the right preparation approach can lead to success. It always pays to plan in advance.

Let’s take a look at How To Prepare for the UPSC Exam without Coaching.

  • Understand the UPSC Exam

Candidates aiming to Prepare for the UPSC Exam without Coaching must have detailed information about the UPSC Exam, such as the UPSC Exam PatternUPSC Exam SyllabusHow to Choose Optional Subject for UPSC Exam, etc. to kickstart their preparation in the best way possible. 

The UPSC conducts the examination in three stages, namely the UPSC Prelims Exam, UPSC Mains Exam, and the Personality (Interview) Test. The strategy to approach both the Prelims and Mains requires focused study. Prelims and Mains are not separate, there is a big overlap of topics. The aspirant should focus on integrated preparation of Prelims and Mains both, till only two-three months remain for the UPSC Prelims.

  • Formulate your strategy

The right strategy is a crucial part of your UPSC journey. Combining the planning with the right guidance, substantially increases the chance of success. UPSC Exam requires smart work with smart study. After understanding the UPSC Exam Pattern, along with the UPSC Syllabus, the candidate should find the right study material, go through the previous year’s questions and analyze the UPSC Exam Pattern to get a better understanding.

Also, start the preparation by reading basic books such as NCERTs of Polity, History, General Science, Geography, and Economy. Correlate the current affairs with places in news and practice maps to understand the World and Indian demographic in a better way.

Along with this, choose and finalize the Optional Subject for UPSC, so that the preparation remains streamlined. 

  • Importance of a robust Study Plan for UPSC 

After having a fair idea about the UPSC Syllabus and Exam Pattern, the next important part is “How to prepare for UPSC without Coaching”. It is important to mention and understand that coaching institutes just aid and help in the UPSC Preparation, but the hard work, and the dedication to sit for long hours need to be practiced by the aspirant only. The UPSC Exam is just like any other examination involving reading, writing, and speaking. However, what distinguishes the IAS Exam from any other examinations is the exclusivity of ‘what’ and ‘how’ attached to these reading, writing, and speaking abilities. 

Candidates who Prepare For UPSC Without Coaching get the benefit to create plans according to their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they don’t have to divide their valuable time between traveling or coaching. So all the aspirants who want to prepare for UPSC without Coaching should follow this step.

  • Micro-manage the UPSC Syllabus

With the myriad of information available to the aspirants, they ought to get lost in it. Stick to using basic NCERT Books and one other extra standard UPSC Book for each subject. Segregate the UPSC Syllabus into parts and divide tasks according to days, weeks, and months. Do not burn out in this process! It is absolutely fine to create small goals, that you can implement easily. 

It is suggested to reward yourself for completing your assigned targets within the stipulated time. Pick up a hobby that takes you out of your home and gives your a break from the vicious cycle. Weekends should be specifically assigned to recreational activities.

  • Check Previous Year Questions 

Now that you have an idea about the UPSC syllabus, and exam pattern, it is about time to proceed to the next part of “How to prepare for UPSC without Coaching”. Here the aspirants need to go through the UPSC Previous Year's Question Papers for both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains to figure out where they stand and also give them a fair amount of idea about the pattern and trends of questions they will face in the UPSC CSE exam. Additionally, it will allow mastering the art of smart studying. For UPSC Prelims, try at least solving one mock daily and for UPSC Mains, try attempting 2-3 questions daily, along with getting it peer reviewed.

  • Importance of Reading Newspapers

Newspaper reading plays a crucial part in the UPSC Preparation. Newspaper is one of the major sources to updated with the recent world happening and get eyes on the trending topics and current affairs. It helps to enhance the theoretical knowledge. A serious candidate should not forget to go through the editorial pages and crucial news coverage that is relevant to the exam. In addition, a monthly consolidation of Current Affairs supplements the knowledge base in a beneficial way. 

  • Practice, Practice, and Practice 

To answer, “How to Prepare for UPSC Without Coaching”, the answer is to practice excessively and believe in yourself. The UPSC Exam demands practice and dedication, coupled with long sitting hours. 

Dedicate weekends for mocks and test series. Analyze your preparation and modify wherever you think change is needed. Always remember, ‘Practice makes a man perfect.

How to Crack UPSC Prelims in First Attempt without Coaching?

The above-mentioned information provided some general information on How to Prepare for the UPSC Exam without Coaching in an integrated way. But, to clear the UPSC Prelims, one needs to have a strategic approach. The UPSC Prelims Syllabus is quite massive and scattered. Hence, revision should be both reasonable and time-bound.

In this section, we will help you to solve the riddle of ‘How to Prepare for the UPSC Exam Without Coaching’ for the Prelims exam.

  • A candidate needs to start his/her preparation at least a year before he plans to appear for the UPSC Exam. The UPSC Syllabus must be well-versed with candidates. The UPSC demands a different approach for UPSC Prelims due to the sheer competition faced by lakhs of aspirants. Smart study plays the deciding factor here!
  • The UPSC exam, with its immense competition, mandates that the aspirant covers the UPSC Syllabus well in advance, with at least two revisions done. Analyze the past trends, but don’t completely rely on them. The Commission can change the pattern anytime. 
  • With three months just before the UPSC Prelims, the candidate must adapt to the fire-fighting mood. Mocks should be attempted, performance analyzed and mistakes modified.
  • It is not important how many mock tests one attempts, but it is important to revise all those attempts. Poor performance should not bring frustration nor should high performance bring elation. 
  • CSAT should not be left to the last moment. Though UPSC CSAT is just qualifying, one needs to practice it at least twice a week.
  • Before the UPSC Prelims, the candidate must go through the gist of the Indian Year Book, Economic Survey, Budget, PIB, and Yojna. Questions tend to be directly asked from these sources.

How to Clear UPSC Mains in First Attempt without Coaching?

After the UPSC Prelims, once you are sure that you are sailing on the safe side of the expected cut-off marks, start preparing for UPSC Mains, the real battle in the game!

  • Prepare a plan (including timeline) to cover the whole syllabus of mains. The focus has to be given to all subjects like the Optional, GS, and Essay. Even the Optional Papers for UPSC should not be left.
  • While the UPSC Prelims require peripheral knowledge of topics, the UPSC Mains demands an exhaustive study covering a wide variety of topics.
  • ‘Horses for courses’ technique should be applied for the UPSC Mains Exam. Picking the right parts of the UPSC Syllabus for the intensive study will not only help to manage time but also help to garner more marks towards the end.
  • The UPSC Mains Syllabus is designed in such a way that it needs to be sufficient with current affairs. The UPSC Syllabus is open-ended and requires analysis and an understanding of the underlying trends and ideas.
  • The answers for UPSC Mains, for all the papers (GS- 1, 2, 3, and 4, along with Optional Subject) should be divided in such a way that it covers all aspects, be it economic, political, legal, socio-cultural, etc. This ensures a good, wholesome read and makes the expression on examiner that the candidate is well-prepared.
  • Enroll in a test series and stick to the scheduled plan. Improve the quality as well as the number of answers by working on mistakes. The key to success is to practice, learn and improvise. Go through toppers' answer sheets to learn from them.

How to Prepare for UPSC CSE Interview?

After the UPSC Mains, analyze the performance and decide on the future course of action. If you expect an interview call, then start preparing for the interview within a few days after the mains. And if you could not do well in UPSC Mains, then introspect and again, with full dedication, approach the next UPSC Prelims.

  • For UPSC Interview, the panel at the Dholpur House wants to evaluate a candidate’s personality and critical thinking ability. 
  • The UPSC Interview is a one-to-one communication between the UPSC aspirants and the panel. The interview may seem scary, but with the right amount of confidence, relevant preparation, and soft skills, one can really ace the UPSC Interview call really well. 
  • The key to acing the interview is to prepare the DAF well, because that forms the base of all the questions asked, along with the candidate’s critical analysis about the recent happenings occurring at the national and international level. 

Thorough coverage of newspapers, along with Rajya Sabha TV programs like Big Picture, India’s World, World Panorama, etc. will give the candidate enough critical thinking and analytical ability to face the questions confidently. 


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  • Yes absolutely, it is possible to Crack UPSC Without Coaching. It is just a myth that coaching is essential to crack the UPSC Exam. Candidates who are focused, and execute their strategy effectively, can surely succeed in the UPSC Exam in the First Attempt. There are many candidates who have cracked UPSC Without Coaching. So, if they can, why can’t you?

  • Preparing for the UPSC exam is not as tough and gigantic as it looks. Though it is tough to clear IAS in 6 months, it is not impossible. To Prepare for the UPSC Exam without Coaching, a candidate needs to build a solid foundation, and understand the UPSC Syllabus, along with UPSC Exam Pattern to come up with an effective strategy. 

    If the candidate has built a basic strong foundation and is clear with the concepts, then it won’t be hard to clear the IAS Exam in 6 months.

  • First and the foremost thing is to get accustomed to the process of the UPSC Civil Services Exam. Following that, follow these simple steps:

    • Analyze the pattern of examination and go through the past year’s questions papers of both prelims and main exam
    • Get in habit of reading the newspaper daily and correlating it with the UPSC Syllabus. 
    • Keep the preparation simple, stick to basic NCERT Books and suffice them with standard books. Make short notes of the same.
    • Have daily and long-term goals to complete your UPSC Syllabus well in advance so that you can revise and solve mocks adequately. 
    • Make use of the internet and social media for your preparation carefully and not waste time needlessly.
  • NCERT books are a must for the UPSC Exam, but they are not enough. The aspirants have to depend on multiple sources and the right booklist for their preparation. Additionally, they need to stay updated by reading the newspapers daily along with Yojana and Kurukshetra.

  • Yes, indeed! Many working professionals do aspire for the same. The answer lies in striking a fine balance between idealism and pragmatism. Work experience also helps score well during the UPSC interview. If a candidate starts the preparation process well in advance, the UPSC Exam can be cleared with a full-time working job, without coaching. Just remember, a candidate has to devote at least 5-6 hours on a regular basis to studies.

  • The UPSC CSE requires more than just hard work. It requires proper planning and the right strategy to crack the exam. Though the materials available are ample, some of the basic standard books suggested over the years to prepare for the UPSC Exam include Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M Laxmikanth, Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh, Certificate of Physical & Human Geography by GC Leong, India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra, A History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra, India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma, etc. to name a few.

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